This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe
Published by Puffin on November 18, 1987
Genres: Children's African Folk Tales, Children's Classics
Source: Personal Library
Buy on Amazon, Buy on Bookshop
A Caldecott Honor and Reading Rainbow book, this memorable retelling of Cinderella is perfect for introducing children to the fairy tale as well as the history, culture, and geography of the African nation of Zimbabwe.
Inspired by a traditional African folktale, this is the story of Mufaro, who is proud of his two beautiful daughters. Nyasha is kind and considerate, but everyone—except Mufaro—knows that Manyara is selfish and bad-tempered.
When the Great King decides to take a wife and invites the most worthy and beautiful daughters in the land to appear before him, Mufaro brings both of his daughters—but only one can be queen. Who will the king choose?
Award-winning artist John Steptoe’s rich cultural imagery of Africa earned him the Coretta Scott King Award for Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters. The book also went on to win the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. This stunning story is a timeless treasure that readers will enjoy for generations.
As I was going through my old books from when I was a child, I came across Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale by John Steptoe. This book has a special place in my heart. It was one of the few books that I saw growing up with a Black girl on the cover. I remember being awestruck that there was a tale about Black girls being beautiful. It makes my heart sad, that I was denied representation in books growing up.
This was also one of the first books I saw where Africa was portrayed so beautifully in the illustrations and in the tale itself. My mom made sure that my library was stocked with books about Black history, but there just weren’t a lot of picture books and novels that were available to choose from. I may be wrong but I think LeVar Burton featured this book on Reading Rainbow too.
About the Book
According to the intro in the book, Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters. This tale is based on a folktale from an 1895 book Kaffir Folktales. The illustrations were inspired by an ancient city in Zimbabwe. The names of the characters are from the Shona language.
In this case, the story is about two sisters, one bad-tempered and one who is kind. One day the father receives a notice that the “most worthy and beautiful daughters in the land are invited to appear before the King, and he will choose on to become Queen!” On daughter is sneaky and decides to try to get to the king first, but she is met with some obstacles that are of her own making. The author daughter, who is kind, has a very different experience.
Illustrations are Gorgeous
The illustrations are one of my favorite parts of the book. They are so lush and beautiful! The flora and fauna are on prominent display. As a child, the story reminded me of Biblical elements, where you should should be careful how you treat strangers because you never know when you are entertaining an angel.
About the Author
Check out more about John Steptoe here.
What is your favorite folktale?
Our 7th grade used to do a unit on folk tales, especially Cinderella, so I have two copies of this title, and a lot of other retellings of Cinderella with cultural connections. What great memories of this book.
That is such a cool unit to teach!